Cisco unleashes a gaggle of Gigabit gear

Cisco Systems Inc. this week unveiled several new stackable switches and switch modules aimed at pushing Layer 3/4 switching and Gigabit Ethernet to enterprise wiring closets.

The six new stackable switches, add-ons to Cisco's Catalyst 3550 and 2950 switch lines, could help small companies that want to deploy stackable switches in the core of a LAN, or use Layer 3 switching to improve traffic performance in wiring closets.

Also, a new 10/100/1000Base-T module for the Catalyst 4000 was introduced for high-density Gigabit Ethernet, while a 16-port 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet switch module for Cisco 2600 and 3600 routers could help users deploy branch-office routing and switching in a single box.

The new stackable Catalysts include the Catalyst 3550-48 and the 3550-24, which offer 48 and 24 ports of 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet respectively, with two Gigabit Interface Converter (GBIC) slots for adding 1000M bit/sec uplinks. The Catalyst 3550-12G is a 12-GBIC-port switch, which can be outfitted with a variety of fiber-optic or copper Gigabit Ethernet GBIC modules.

Software can be added to all three switches to support Layer 3 and 4 switching and routing protocols, such as Open Shortest Path First and Routing Information Protocol. The switches can also provide security with access control lists (ACL) and rate limiting for managing how much bandwidth end users can receive.

The 24- and 48-port models are aimed at wiring closets where end-user security and finely tuned traffic management are needed, while the 12-port GBIC switch is targeted as a backbone switch for a small network, or as a data center switch for connecting enterprise servers or Web servers.

The three new Catalyst 2950G models - also in 12-, 24- and 48-port versions - are aimed at wiring closets in smaller nets, where complex ACL rules, rate limiting, and IP routing are not needed. Software can be added to the switches for supporting Layer 3/4 "services," such as the ability to inspect packets at Layers 3 and 4 for scaled-down ACL security (meaning fewer ACL-based rules can be applied).

Cisco's new 48-port 10/100/1000M bit/sec Ethernet module for the Catalyst 4000 is aimed at large enterprise wiring closets that are looking to migrate some desktops to Gigabit Ethernet, while keeping other users plugged into the same switch at 10/100M bit/sec.

For branch offices, Cisco released the 16-port 10/100 EtherSwitch Network Module for its 2600 and 3600 routers. The module, which fits in one network module slot of a 2600/3600 router, can be used to combine switching and routing into a single box for a small office or enterprise branch office. The module also supports Cisco's in-line power over Ethernet technology, allowing a Cisco router to power devices such as Cisco IP phones or wireless LAN network access points (Cisco's in-line power technology is only certified to work with Cisco phones and access points).

The Catalyst 3550-48 and 24 will cost US$5,800 and $3,500, respectively, while the 12-port GBIC switch will cost $10,000. The Catalyst 2950-48, -24 and -12 will range from $2,500 to 5000. Layer 3/4 software upgrades for the 3500 and 2950 switches will cost an extra $2,000. As for the modular products, the Catalyst 4000 48-port 10/100/1000BaseT Line Card will cost $10,000, and the Cisco 2600 and 3600 Router EtherSwitch Network Modules will go for $1,800. All products will be available later this month.

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